Dinner is my frenemy.
She’s my friend because she brings my family together and I love to nurture and care for them.
Dinner is also my enemy. I’ve lost more battles to her than I care to count. She plagues me with guilt and feelings of inadequacy. She’s like that annoying person you just can’t get rid of. Always there, lurking, waiting. She never takes a day off, ever.
Dinner has a way of sneaking up on me. Most days I don’t even think about her until around 6 pm when everyone, especially me, is tired and hungry. I don’t know about your family, but when we don’t eat well, we don’t act well.
Every mother has a rough day now and again and dinner in the car becomes necessary. But recently when my “rough day” turned into weeks, I knew it was time for a change.
The Washington Post shared a great article “The Most Important Thing You Can Do With Your Kids?” The article cited numerous studies about the benefits of this simple ritual. Family dinner is linked to kids getting better grades, having healthier bodies, and better behavior patterns. A quick read, the article written by the co-founder of The Family Dinner Project gave me all the motivation I needed to create better dinner habits.
As much as I wanted to attack this dinner monster with an arsenal of fancy meals, perfect timing, and pre-planned discussions, I knew that that approach is what got me into this mess in the first place. I had to implement a realistic plan that would work for my family.
- Create a family menu. We used a few minutes of family planning time to choose simple meals that everyone likes. A list of 12-14 meals works great for us. We included a night or two for leftovers and most meals are cooked in the crockpot.
- Create a grocery list. With everyone’s help, I typed up a checklist of everything needed to make the meals we chose plus a few staples like bread, milk, etc. Before heading to the grocery store I print up the list and cross off the stuff we don’t need. I’m a little obsessed with lists and the rush I get while crossing things off!
- Make it a family affair. My teenagers love to grocery shop, ok maybe they just love to drive to the grocery store. But they are always willing to go. My younger kids like to set the table. My son is the master of counter scrubbing. Run with it people, let them do it! Give everyone dinner jobs.
- Prepare for dinner first thing in the morning. Our dinner jobs are mostly done in the morning; set the table, food prep, empty the dishwasher, etc. Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of adding more to your mornings. Keep it simple, it only takes a few minutes and it is SO worth it at the end of the day.
My relationship with dinner is improving. When she becomes more enemy than friend again, I’ll take comfort in knowing that I have a proven plan of attack!